Hexennacht: A Ritual

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The veil thins, my dark little creatures! Hexennacht, the night of Witches, approaches. Also called Walpurgisnacht, the night of April 30th is a darker, wilder sister to Beltane– which is a nice holiday and all, but I ain’t Celtic.

On the opposite end of the year than October 31st; I think of Hallow’s Eve and Hexennacht as book ends, two sides to the same coin laid upon the mouth of the dead so that they may pay their way on Charon’s boat. A journey across the river Acheron. A voyage through the underworlds.

In Germany it’s believed that witches gather on the Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains, for dark revels and communions with demons on the night before May Day.

This is a night of celebration, for the dead speak and the veil has thinned.

I will be celebrating Hexennacht on Sunday night and below you’ll find a skeleton outline of the ritual I will be using. Feel free to mad-lib it to your black heart’s content. Let me know if you do!

Whisper to the dead and they will whisper back, witches.

To begin, I cleanse myself with smoke or water, grounding and centering down into the earth, before casting a Triangle of Blood, Bone, and Shadow.

Triangle

Bone

Dark One of Unknowable Depths. You whisper to me ancient secrets of magic and death. Stalking the space between worlds, you exist betwixt and between. Within the veil, between the flesh, is your wicked domain. Guide me through my Triangle as you guide me through the veil. Oh come and be my teacher.

Blood

Bloodied Warrior of Vicious Protection. Through the mightiness of my ancestral line, I know your name. Guardian of my mother’s mother,  you are the protectress of ancient children. A creature of the venerated wild, mistress of tooth and claw. Ward my Triangle as you ward my Journey. Oh come and be my keeper.

Shadow

Dreaded Enchantress of Infinite Wisdom. In your kingdom of obsidian my soul takes root, burrowing into wicked soil. You are the black serpent of the crossroads, snake witch, the deep darkness is yours to command.  Reveal my Triangle as you reveal my shadow.  Oh come and be my reflection.  

I then invoke the wights and spirits of my house and land, as well as my own personal ancestors and beloved departed.

Invocations

House Spirits

Wights of place! Of hearth and home! Of brick and beam! Of wood and stone! Heed my Triangle, drawn with power! I call upon you in this sacred hour! 

Departed Family

Ancestors, beloved and departed- dead to us, but never gone. You who are called [list departed family and ancestral surnames]! Come, attend my rite!

For Hexennacht I will light a fire under the dark sky and throw in dried herbs to mingle with the smoke– sage, local henbit, and mandrake. I will beat my drum and sing, calling my ancestors to me. I will throw my runes and divine that which my mundane eyes cannot see. I will dance, widdershins, around my fire and I will pour out homemade mead for my ancestors to drink.

Dark revels are about on this night. Don your masks so that you may join in the celebrations, trick the spirits into believing you are one of them, because truly, on Hexennacht you are.

Open your ears and soul and eyes to the calls of the dead and the spirits. 

A Problem with Whiteness

My brother-in-law says to me he can tell when an Italian restaurant isn’t authentic. I think to myself that he wouldn’t know authentic Italian or Italian-American cuisine if it fell from the sky and crushed him, but I humor him. How can you tell, I ask.

When they’re run by white people, he explains. 

I stop, startled into silence by this assertion, mutely gaping as my father-in-law agrees.

“So, then,” I begin slowly finding my voice, “are you saying Italians aren’t white? Are you saying I’m not white?”

I am genuinely confused and the two starkly pale men of Irish ancestry standing in my kitchen seem confused as well.

My brother-in-law stares at me as if I asked the stupidest question he’s ever heard.

“Well, umm, uhh yea…” He is struggling for words and I offer him none. I let my brother-in-law flounder under my emerald gaze, until he is saved by my husband’s sudden appearance as he seems to have a sixth sense for when his family are making asses of themselves.

Am I white?

My grandfather is full-blooded Italian. His parents immigrated from southern Italy. My name is Italian. I have my great-grandpa Vito’s nose, I have my grandfather’s eyes and his olive complexion.

I have been mistaken for many different ethnicities, I’ve had people argue with me that I couldn’t possibly be of European descent because of how I look. I suppose I’m ethnically ambiguous, though that’s rather an odd term.

But see, here is the problem with whiteness–

You are only white for as long as the dominant culture says you are white.

Whiteness is a gift bestowed upon the ruling class to those of us less fortunate.

For the time being we are white enough. Southern Europeans, Roman Catholics, we are white enough.

But not too long ago, we weren’t.

The term “guinea” refers to those of us from Southern Italy who are darker than our more Northern cousins. It is a slur. It is a slur meant to call into question our whiteness. Because not too long ago, we Italians were not white. We were guineas and dagos and wops.

Am I white?

My friend from Japan is not as dark skinned as me, my friend from Cyprus is not as dark skinned as me, my friend from Morocco is not as dark skinned as me. Shouldn’t they be white?

Am I white?

White is not the color of your skin, white is the blessing bestowed upon the less fortunate by the dominate culture until suddenly it’s not anymore.

Until suddenly we are dagos and guineas and wops again because really, that’s what we were the whole time.

Am I white?

Full Moon Offering

On the evening of the full moon, my mother-in-law came to visit. To put it gently, this is not a fun time for me. My husband’s mother is a narcissistic, manipulative, dishonorable bitch and that’s about the nicest thing I could probably say about her.

I sat on my couch and listened to her turn what should have been a brief encounter to pick something up, into an hour long diatribe on why no one loves her or cares about her, all the time consciously willing my eyes not to roll into the back of my head. I take special cautions to avoid her and normally this works just fine, we usually see her about twice a month and rarely at our home. But sometimes it cannot be avoided.

I could feel my house, my wights, my spirits recoil away from her, I could feel her energy polluting my home. I wanted to scream.

When she finally left, I could see the mental exhaustion painted across my husband’s face, and so I suggested we dye eggs. Something fun and whimsical and childlike to erase her foul aura from our house.

I forgot it was the full moon. 

So we dyed our eggs and I offered them to my house and my own spirits and when I went to bed I dreamed of my father smiling at me.

The next day, besides my herb garden, I found a rabbit. A creature broken and mangled and half-eaten: prey.

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I have lived in my house for two years now and have never found a dead animal anywhere on our little property and when I saw her lying there I knew the wheel was turning.

I spoke to my witch sister and she said offering, this is an offering.

Offering. 

Yes. An offering, a sacrifice.

The carcass was properly disposed of, in the way one must do in the city, and as the sun set and twilight descended, I made my own offering. I cut a sprig of oregano from my garden and boiled it. I poured the water and oregano onto the spot where the rabbit had been left and I sprinkled salt upon the ground. All this, an offering to the door this death had created, a piercing of the veil, and I breathed in that power.

For you see, what is good for the wolf is not necessarily good for the rabbit and trust me when I tell you, my little darklings, I am a wolf. 

When Spirits Speak

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.10.27 AMMy home is a guarded space. My wights and I, we have an understanding, we have a working relationship, a partnership. They will own these bricks and beams, this wood and stone, this dirt and land, long after my family and I have left. It’s really more their’s than it is mine.

Yesterday, I arrived home from my muggle life and I had a feeling: an urge to offer. So I poured salt in my hand, coarse and purified, and I sprinkled it along the boundary of my fence and house. I sang to the wights and spirits, I called on them with the salt, both an offering and a warding.

This place is ours. Let nothing in that would do ill. This place is ours. Accept this offering, heed my will. 

The wights are listening, the wights are always listening even when you think maybe they’re not. They live in everything.

Your home is made of wood that was once a tree. Does the tree not have a spirit? Your home is made of brick that was once clay and shale. Does the rock not have a spirit? Your home sits atop the ancient land. Does the land not have a spirit? Maybe neglected spirits, maybe forgotten spirits, but spirits nonetheless.

After my offering of salt and song, I came inside and found crawling about on my hand a wee spider. The spirits are always listening. I took the little guardian outside and I thanked her for her weavings. There is power and craft in a spider’s web. Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 8.09.54 AM

In my backyard are frogs and rabbits, spiders and cardinals, mushrooms and weeds. They own this place.